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ScissorTales: Tax cut food for thought from Oklahoma business leaders

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: May 5, 2012

THE idea of reducing or eliminating Oklahoma's personal income tax needs more study. It would result in transferring money to the rich from the poor. It isn't as important to business as supporters believe.

The arguments of Democratic lawmakers opposed to the Republican push to cut the income tax? No. Instead, these are the opinions of business and chamber of commerce officials.

Oklahoma Policy Institute, no fan of an income tax cut, cobbled together comments made in recent months as the various tax plans made their way through the Legislature. Lawmakers from each side of the aisle urged caution, as did economists. But so too did business leaders.

Former Republican House Speaker Chris Benge, now vice president of the Metro Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, said the benefits of a cut “may be limited” if doing so affects the state's ability to maintain roads and bridges, or “educate and train employees for a 21st-century economy.” Scott Meacham, former state treasurer, said our current tax structure hasn't held the state back. “And that's what you always gotta be careful of when you start getting political solutions to problems that may not really exist.”

Roy Williams, CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said companies look not for the cheapest locale, but for “the place where they believe they get the best value for what it is they invest in and the cost that they pay.”

Food for thought as lawmakers continue their work on this issue.

Snow place like dome

Few Oklahoma school districts needed to take snow days this year. The teachers union didn't take a bogus snow day for a political rally. The Oklahoma Education Association is, however, staging a rally Saturday in the shadows of the state Capitol dome. It's ostensibly nonpolitical. Unlike earlier teachers union rallies, it's not specifically designed to boost teacher pay. The focus has shifted to public schools themselves. But teacher pay and education spending can't really be separated. Material used to generate interest in the rally includes remarks by actor Matt Damon on the value of teachers. Not mentioned is Damon's profanity-laced defense of public education in a July 30 interview last year. That kind of language will get you some time off from school, with or without snow in the forecast.

Senior citizens save Big Bird?

In the debate over OETA, supporters often cited children's educational opportunities and the potential loss of “Sesame Street” as a reason to maintain funding. But on the House floor, it turned out senior citizens' support of OETA and voting power may have been even more persuasive. “The last I checked, they're the vast majority of the people that vote,” said state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “They're the ones that go to the polls every time.” Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, reminded his colleagues that senior citizens “constitute 38 percent of all the qualified and active voters in this state,” and predicted that “99 percent of that 38 percent are going to tell you, ‘Yes, keep OETA.'” The bill passed 53-28. The blue-haired Cookie Monster might be Big Bird's friend on TV, but apparently blue-haired voters were his protectors in the Legislature.

In the heat of the night

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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